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Share Your Thoughts: What are the building blocks of being an engaged and active citizen?

Casey Caplowe

Here at GOOD HQ, we're working to assemble a a toolkit, or macro to-do list if you will, of what we all should do as part of being good, engaged, and active citizens—citizens not just of our country, but of our communities and of the world at large. So, what should be on the list? Voting? Giving blood? Getting a library card?

Share your ideas in the comments below.

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  • Jeff Hoffart

    As a teacher, I believe that the concept of action is more a state of mind than a product. Action can only make a resonating difference to and in the world when it is developed in tandem with a toolbox of explicitly taught skills, modelled behaviours, scaffolded plans and a gradual release of responsibility.

    My colleague, Tosca Killoran, and I asked a very similar question: "How can we enable and prepare our students to make a difference to and in the world?"

    This resulted in peer-reviewed research, which was published in the IB Journal of Teaching Practice (Sustained student action in the PYP). We also developed a service learning curriculum framework, that is free for teachers:

    Since then, we have published our first book: A is for Action: The ABC's of taking action, which helps students improve their self-esteem (believing that they can, in fact, make a difference), become more confident in their abilities to problem-solve, and to become inspired to change the world for the better.

    I think whether it is about voting, giving blood, or getting a library card, it truly boils down to a state of mind, and developing the skills necessary to take action in a sustainable way.

  • Ida Villadsen

    Think, and act sustainably. Both when it comes to the consumption of the earths resources in the forms of food, tools etc. – but also the energy which you yourself invest in your job, hobbies, society (local and global), family and friends everyday. If you make the right investment, the amount of energy, and happiness return back even greater

    - Just treat others, and yourself with care!

  • Wormy Simone

    pay attention. question. introduce yourself. read.

  • Wormy Simone

    pay attention. question. introduce yourself. read.

  • michelle_vma

    Know your privilege and do something positive with it.

  • julie843

    Being a good parent - raising children thoughtfully and mindfully.
    In fact - be good and thoughtful and mindful in all that you do.

  • Jon Dicus

    maybe just start with compassion & empathy for the people around you. everything else will work itself out from there...

  • Nina Holzer

    My thoughts:

    Get a library card
    Use public transportation (where available)
    Volunteer at a school, community center, or area nonprofit
    Talk to your neighbors
    Organize a neighborhood or community block party (or similar event)
    Organize a community beautification project
    Learn your city's history
    Venture to a new part of your city once or twice a month (if not more!)
    Go to a local museum (and events hosted by that museum)
    Take part in town hall and council meetings
    Organize a TEDx event
    Take part in AmeriCorps
    Support area nonprofits and innovative organizations/companies
    Shop locally, buy food from a farmers market or local business
    Talk. To. Everyone

  • LA

    There are many, many ways to being a good global citizen. Here are just a few:

    * Beautify your community - whether that be a beach or highway clean up, planting a tree, painting a mural, or growing a garden.

    * Contribute what you know - teach, mentor, coach, join an open source project, give back.

    * Contribute what you can - donate, volunteer, lend a hand, lend your voice.

    * Connect with others of different age groups - adopt a senior, babysit, be a mentor to a younger person, call your parents.

    * Connect with others of different backgrounds - travel, learn a new language, try different foods, make friends of different cultures.

    * Have a smaller footprint - Bike or walk, use less, recycle more, purchase second-hand, repair something, purchase locally produced foods and other products.

    * Create art.

  • Emily Bouchard

    Some ideas:

    Need to be well informed on current issues
    Aware of world histories
    Knowledge of different world cultures
    Travel helps, but is no longer necessary in our very connected world
    Passion about a subject/idea
    Actively supporting the things you love/feel are necessary to make the world a better place (be that through donation or volunteering or creating a unique solution to the problems you see)
    Problem solving capabilities
    Environmental awareness and participation

  • Jack Korpob

    Definitely start to care about someone other than yourself, something other than the things you have, and causes greater than yourself. That's where active citizenship starts.

    Things you can tangible do to be good, more engaged, and an active citizen?

    1) Read the news or watch the news. Then, make sure to come up with your own opinion and new ideas from what you have learned.

    2) Volunteer for an organization you feel you can connect with, where it doesn't feel like work, but feels fun and inpsiring.

    3) Exercise your right to vote (if you can). Even if you don't want to vote on every office or item, you do have the right to abstain on items. Make your voice count during election periods.

    4) Instead of just advocating or being an ally, go out and do something. Act. Act with courage and believe that you can change the world of at least one person if you go out and do something.

    5) Join AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. These are very transformational experiences and teach you a lot about the US, the World, and yourself. The ultimate form of gaining perspective on communities around the world.

    6) When you find a job, find ways to link it to social justice issues. Even if you are working for a large corporation/business, there are lots of ways to get involved in the community through the organization itself.

    7) Donate (if you can) time and money to organizations you believe in.

    8) Make small steps to become more environmentally conscious and friendly. Take shorter showers. Turn down the heat. Try to go without the AC. Do laundry in non-peak times. Use reusable, plates, bowls, utensils, cups, and water bottles. Buy a water filter.

    9) Use social media to spread awareness on social justice issues.

    10) Spread the word on all your amazing little and big acts of engagement and active citizenship. You might inspire to greatness.

  • Wendy Hamm

    I have seen this wave of change work in my own home. My husband, before marrying me, did not have an active relationship with the voting process (he wasn't even registered at the age of 29). Once he saw how important it was to me as well as slowly being exposed to "politics" at large, he decided it was his time to step up. He, at the age of 43, became a political monster, gobbled up any info he could about topics and forming his own opinions rather than take an opinion forced down his throat by the political machine. Now that his eyes have been opened, they can no longer be closed. FINALLY! While he and I do not sometimes agree on certain topics, that is okay because he finally HAS an opinion.

    • Lindsey Smith

      Such a beautiful story Wendy! I'm glad he found his voice and stepped up to not only vote, but to spend time forming his own opinion. I find reading both conservative and liberal news sources help me form a more well-rounded view. How do you recommend that I convince friends/family to become more politically active?

  • Shannon Yarbrough

    I have seen transformation just in myself from listening more deeply to people younger than me. Keeping a pulse on upcoming generations' thoughts, reactions, priorities, past times, and more is remarkably refreshing. Somehow children and teens make sense of complex situations in ways that those of us exposed to so many expert opinions do not. Listening to them is important for us to learn, and through listening, we empower youth to speak up.

  • Jalila Simmons

    I think it starts from within. Loving yourself is taken for granted, often overlooked. But if we take quality time every day to:

    look deep into our own hearts, connect with the beauty, the wounds, the walls and decide to love and accept those parts of us;

    take the time to be honest with and learn more about ourselves, about who we are; and from all of that;

    learn to work with everything we've got instead of trying to be something we're not -

    then, perhaps, we can relate to others and find it easier to show everyone else (lovely or not) respect, compassion and love.

  • Dan Cassidy

    Every day - not just the days you feel like it - but every, single, day, be nice to other people. It's as simple as that. If everyone was "nice" to each other and followed the golden rule, I think we'd all be a lot happier. That, plus follow your dreams. Make others laugh. Enjoy each minute like it's your last. There's lots everyone can do but a little bit each day goes a long way.

  • Barbara Soalheiro

    Find something you are passionate about. It's the key to leading a happier life. And leading a happy life is the key to really caring and engaging with the world we live in.

    Be responsible with things you share online. In a world where everyone is an author and an influence to their own community, it's important to make checking facts a habit.

  • NYU Reynolds Program

    Similar to what many others have said, but simply being kind to others - empathy, the golden rule, being conscious of your words and actions. That has to be #1

  • Causey

    When we advocate for a cause we nurture our primal capacity to acknowledge others and a greater social good. Publicly advocate for a cause.

    Accessible technology and social media networks offer the means to collaboration of our collective intelligence.

  • Reggie Greene / The Logistician

    I believe that we individual citizens abdicated our responsibilites to elected officials and Corporate America, and now that we are not satisfied with the results we are complaining. We have no one but ourselves to blame.

    We're on an exponential path of increasingly unreasonable expectations (substantially due to communications technology). No elected president will ever be able to truly satisfy 50% of the citizens again, UNTIL (a) the global economy comes roaring back and the benefits trickle down to the common citizen (something over which the president has little control), or (b) there is a war of major consequence. That president will ride that wave of prosperity, or wave of patriotism, for which a cause and effect relationship cannot be honestly established.

    Since the beginning, engineers, scientists, inventors, and new thinkers have spurred new technology. It is technology that drives prosperity. The use of that technology drives industry, and trade and industry create jobs and drive tax revenues. When all is humming, an economy is strong enough to keep enough people employed, and fewer folks bitching about basics. The have-not voices are drowned out, or there are enough crumbs for the haves to toss to convert their screams to mumbles.

    8) That's what this last election should have been about: how to ignite an explosion of creativity, inventiveness, and innovation. The reality is that government action, or inaction, may encourage but does not drive that.

    So here’s the deal, college students. Too many Baby Boomers (Institute Fellows included) abdicated our responsibilities and became fat and complacent as the size of the prosperous middle class grew. We developed an unrealistic expectation that things would always get better and America would continue to be No.1, without a sufficient number of us putting in the effort required to stay No. 1. (What the muck made us think the children of each succeeding generation would live better lives than their parents? Hope?)

    With each passing year, we expect more of our elected officials (who are not in a position to deliver) and for government to do “something,” more or less. It’s neither the fault of government, nor our elected leaders.

    It is the logical result of human societal evolution once we started removing the food generation burden from individuals, and figured out that a few could generate excess food permitting most the “luxury” to pursue other pursuits of choice. Once we created “jobs,” people became dependent on them, and on receiving currency from some source. Additionally, we failed to recognize the challenges presented by leisure time.

    Only individual citizens can pull us out of this mess. I believe that we need to return to having a larger proportion of our citizens being scientists, physicists, engineers, inventors, innovators, etc. We also believe that individuals should create their wn small businesses to create jobs and not wait or rely on government / big corporations.

  • calili

    Stay informed about not only things happening in your country but in other places too.
    And inform others, once you yourself know enough about issues you care about.
    Also, give everyone and everything the benefit of the doubt.
    Don't start fighting until you have the full story.
    Love others with all your heart. Jealousy won't get you anywhere.
    Keep creating those small changes.
    Remember: 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'

  • Stephanie

    Caring about something, anything, and contributing at least one action to it. As long as you make one positive influence, you're on your way to making many more.

  • retherton87

    Volunteering for your local community based organization or non-profit.

  • richard.franklin.1420

    Play co-op computer games. They encourage you to help others, which in turn affects how much you're likely to help others in the real world.

  • cnoeone

    Keep up with science so you can make informed decisions when choosing elected officials to represent you.

  • Maricarmen Sierra

    Learn the past, be present, prepare for the future.

  • enjoy_it

    - Keep the quote "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" in mind
    - Go to a school board meeting
    - Go to a city council meeting
    - Think of an area you're passionate about and want to see change in -- start a discussion with your community members, write a letter to city and government officials, start a petition
    - Ride a bike, walk, or take public transit -- it's not only environmentally and economically conscious, but also more social!
    - Bring a meal or baked good over to a neighbor once in a while
    - Wash your hands
    - Give blood, plasma, or bone marrow (if you are medically eligible)
    - Make your postal worker and waste collectors thank you cards
    - Vote
    - See the good in paying taxes!

  • Ethan Amarant

    We need to support others. The actions we take out of compassion for others are the best way to nurture ourselves.

    And yeah, Climate Change has to be addressed. So start by talking about it, everyday, with everyone.

  • Abi Magalong

    Understand that money isn't everything - "Compensation" is in the Contribution you're making to a very needy society. This is difficult, but necessary!

  • Adele Peters

    As global citizens, one of the most urgent things we need to all contribute to is the fight against climate change- out of everything we can do, three things matter the most: eating less meat and dairy, driving and flying less, and using less electricity. Buying less stuff helps too. We also need to join together to change the minds of climate skeptics, and push for carbon policy.

    We need to think of ourselves as the creative forces who will find the necessary solutions to social challenges, rather than assuming that someone else (government, NGOs) has the answers.

  • Nathan Heath

    Work as a server/customer service rep. for a month. It will change the way you understand/speak to people forever.

  • Rachel Chaikof

    When paying taxes, we should realize the value of it. Taxes create a safe environment that includes paved sidewalks, traffic lights, police officers, firefighters, clean water, public transportation, schools, etc. They also help prosper the economy, as it creates jobs to create a safe environment and in return, those who have jobs are able to purchase goods in stores and services.

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    As we may have learned from the school shooting on 12/14, thinking ahead and making an effort to address issues that aren't always problems, can prevent problems later. So, for example, setting standards for places like schools to have security guards or stricter ways of monitoring who comes in and out of schools. Addressing the mental health of fellow community members. Does someone in your community seem out of sorts? Start a conversation- what can you do to help him or her? Should we have group therapy for communities? Is that too radical a thought? City council meetings are slightly like that- but they just address city infastructure or policy issues. What about getting personal? I know people don't like sharing private information- but what about creating forums where people have the option to share what's going on mentally with themselves?

    • Abi Magalong

      I agree! Shootings like today's are devastating, and much too frequent. Change really comes from the conversation we put out there... within our communities, families, and towards our governments and leaders.

  • Tracey Middleton

    We need to do what we can and use the power we already have to ensure that we have a fair political system, access to unbiased information, access to voting and that we all have equality within the law...wherever we are. And approach everyone as though they are a lovely, well meaning person. If they are, you've made a friend. If they aren't, you'll confuse the hell out of them...:-)

  • Rei Wang

    Buy/use only what you need, especially when it comes to food
    Wash your hands, often
    Share your skills - teach a class, host a workshop, etc.

  • Albert Lee

    empathy... the golden rule... ya know!

  • Lisa Rau Cannon

    Smile at strangers. ...just not in the creepy way.

  • Casey Caplowe

    Visit a neighborhood in your city you've never been to.
    Visit a city in your country you've never been to.
    Visit a country you've never been to.

    • Hannah Wasserman

      Find the best hole-in-the-wall restaurant in every neighborhood!

  • Lea Brandy

    Be conscious of your spending and who you're spending it with in all regards, from buying local to who bank with. Shift from banter about problems, to working toward solutions. Stop ignoring inconvenient truths with farming, the climate, social health disparities, and inequality. Be active in social communities working toward social change for 15 minutes a day. Appreciate all that we have and stop taking it for granted.

  • Mitch Robinson

    Finding a community niche too be passionate about and a leader in.

  • Jacob Appel

    Go to jury duty and don't try to get excused
    Read the Declaration of Independence
    Read MLK's "I have a dream" and "the Mountaintop"

    • Laura Goldberg

      On that note, there is a awesome exhibit at the Skirball in LA about the founding of the country that has early drafts of the Declaration and Constitution.

  • Tom Canavan

    Macro plan for US, To use 3 things we throw away each year to create a million jobs and house 300,000 homeless families each and every year. it's a little long to post here but still all on one page so if you have a minute please read,
    Thank You
    Tom Canavan
    contact info on site

  • Myra Piedad-Petgrave

    - Live interdependently and know your neighbors. Love your neighbor as yourself.
    - Give back and volunteer your time, talents, and treasure.

  • Hannah Wasserman

    Look up and go to local events
    Start meet ups in your neighborhood
    Say hi to people on the street
    Volunteer at a local school or community garden
    Always look for ways you can help improve your community
    Plan a community dinner/picnic

  • Jeff Nelder

    Start a community garden.
    Plan for emergencies with your neighbors.
    Campaign for issues in which you believe.
    Always bring your own bags to the store.
    Look for the local banking opportunity.
    Walk rather than drive.
    Help your neighbors.
    Help those who need help- even crossing the street.
    Tune in and be present.

  • Jen Chiou

    - get as close to zero waste as possible
    - eat less meat
    - share
    - say please and thank you
    - use social media voice for positivity or productive critique
    - get educated on the issues and vote
    - mentor
    - do their best at what they do

  • Trina Lambert

    love more.
    hate less.
    be kind.
    think positive.
    remain loyal.
    act fearless.
    live generous.
    think creative.

  • annisadharma

    - Shop locally as much as possible (groceries, fashion & design, services, etc).
    - Think beyond money as a trade commodity within your community (ie. barters of skill, time, energy, knowledge, etc).
    - Volunteer in community events and activities then share with the world through the web.
    - Start a creative movement / activity that can involve people from various demographics then share globally on the web.
    - Pass on your knowledge to others (tutoring, surf lessons, yoga and cooking classes, etc).
    - Know your neighbours and activate the "borrow-some-sugar" system.
    - Be involved in as many different group activities as possible and build bridges across the different social circles.
    - Ride the bicycle or walk as much as possible.
    - Clean out your closet and storage every month and give away things in good condition that you don't need anymore. And vice versa, try to acquire second hand goods as often as possible.

  • Wormy Simone

    Pick up garbage in a local park
    Drive an elderly person to the store, the bank or appt
    Read the local paper and find out about volunteer activities
    Make a meal for a sick neighbor
    Read to the old and the young
    Use the cashier not the self check register
    Shop at local businesses

  • Liz Dwyer

    *Attend a school board meeting so you understand the challenges facing your local school district.
    *Offer your talents and time to the local public school in your neighborhood

  • Tyler Hoehne

    • Support your local public radio station
    • Go to a city council meeting
    • Read a history book about your city/state/country
    • Give your favorite bar tender a bonkers tip at least once a month

  • Yasha Wallin

    Look at labels - at the store, read where your produce comes from and eat completely locally for a week.

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Visit your local recycling center/find your local trash dump. (I don't know where mine is). How can you make the garbage man's job easier?

  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    Join a writer’s group/or art collective/build a network of people that work in your field and have a meeting- what can you do for each other?

  • Hillary Newman

    On a local level:
    -Get involved in local events
    -Participate in local government (this can be as simple as voting)
    -Get to know your neighbors
    -Support local businesses

    On a global level:
    -Get educated on global issues and help spread awareness
    -Support sustainable options
    -Support fair trade

  • Meghan Neal

    support public radio or public TV

  • Cara Williams

    Along the same lines as the previous two comments, get to know your neighbors, and set up systems to share cars, lawn mowers, tillers, tools, etc.. Things households use infrequently could all be shared instead of all owning our own.

  • Meghan Neal

    Stay up to speed on current events

  • Pete(r) Karinen

    - Bike to work
    - Start a book club
    - Donate old electronics
    - Promote a cause through social media
    - "Go paperless" with all of your bills
    - Donate books to a school
    - Teach local children a craft/skill

  • Yasha Wallin

    Get to know your neighbors.

      • Alessandra Rizzotti

        -Volunteer at an elderly center once a week. Tell the story of someone there that you might hang out with.
        -Curate a community discussion in your backyard about how to solve the fiscal cliff

        • howman

          don't just do something
          sit there
          dare to sense
          dare to feel
          dare to be

          • Lindsey Smith

            What a beautiful quote! Did you write it?